Can a Muslim take a one-way trip to Mars? A fatwa says no.

A one-way journey to Mars is not justifiable under Islam, according to an edict issued by a fatwa committee under the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment in the United Arab Emirates.

NASA and Hubble Heritage Team/AP
The Dutch nonprofit Mars One is currently screening applicants for a one-way trip to the Red Planet, with the aim of establishing a permanent human settlement. A religious edict issued by an Islamic body in Dubai has prohibited involvement in the mission, citing the risks.

It appears that some Muslim religious clerics are dead-set against manned Mars expedition, at least not without a round-trip ticket.

According to the Khaleej Times, a Dubai-based English-language media outlet, a fatwa committee under the United Arab Emirates' General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (GAIAE) has issued a fatwa prohibiting involvement in a one-way trip to the Red Planet.

The fatwa comes as Mars One, a Dutch nonprofit seeking to establish a permanent Martian colony, continues to screen more than 200,000 applications for its four-person, one-way trip to Mars, scheduled for 2024.

The Khaleej Times quoted the committee as saying, “Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam. There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.” 

According to the Times, the GAIAE warned that those who undertake this journey is likely to die for no "righteous reason," and are risking punishment in the afterlife "similar to that of suicide."

In its reply to the fatwa, Mars One stated, "If we may be so bold: the GAIAE should not analyze the risk as they perceive it today. The GAIAE should assess the potential risk for humans as if an unmanned habitable outpost is ready and waiting on Mars. Only when that outpost is established will human lives be risked in Mars One's plan." In its statement, Mars One also requested the GAIAE to cancel the Fatwa.

The religious ruling has also irked some Muslim scholars.

This kind of a religious ruling point toward "the lack of scientific knowledge among the religious scholars on such bodies, most of whom are traditionally learned older sheikhs who have not obtained a science education in the way a normal western student does," Khaleel Mohammed, assistant professor of Religion at the San Deigo State University told the Monitor.

"This type of religious ruling, while coming forth as the extremist nonsense that it actually is, seems to have a totally different intent." Mohammed specializes in Islam, Islamic Law, Comparative Religion.

Back in 2006, the National Space Agency of Malaysia (ANGKASA) had convened a meeting of Muslim astronauts and religious scholars to resolve issues such as, determining the timings of prayers and the direction Muslim astronauts should face while praying, while in space. The issue came up when the Malaysian government announced to send the first Malaysia’s astronaut to the International Space Station. Post the convention, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) came up with 'A Guideline of
 Performing Ibadah at the International Space Station (ISS)'

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